Currently deputy chairman, Axford will take on the position from September 1.
An auctioneer for almost 50 years, including a long stint at Phillips for whom he opened its New York office, Viney joined W&W in 1995 as managing director.
He stepped up to the role of chairman in 2000, following the retirement of Tim Woolley.
Viney said: “The key to our success has been the quality of all our staff - specialists, porters, secretaries and the administrators... Within the industry we are widely recognised as the UK’s leading regional firm of fine art auctioneers and I am very confident that my successor John Axford and his team will continue to take the company forward.”
In ATG's latest annual review of regional auction house hammer totals, W&W regained top spot for 2018. It reported a hammer turnover from January to December 2018 of £19.82m, a 26% increase on 2017.
The firm said during Viney’s tenure it has “introduced several new departments, witnessed the rapid expansion of the Asian art market, the cessation of the company’s bi-weekly general sales, and the sale of 11 lots over £1m, starting with the sale of a 14th century Chinese porcelain vase in 2005 and ending with the sale of a Chinese Contemporary painting by Zhang Daqian in May of this year”.
Axford joined W&W in 1993 as a graduate trainee valuer. Over more than 15 years he has built the firm’s Asian art department to become the leading Oriental art auctioneer outside London and he will continue to run this alongside his duties as chairman.
Current managing director Clive Stewart-Lockhart has been appointed as deputy chairman and finance director Natalie Milsted will become managing director.
Viney will remain one of W&W’s four board directors, in a non-executive capacity, and will continue to carry out insurance and probate valuations, and host some auctions, as he has done for the past two decades.
“Hopefully as chairman at Woolley & Wallis I’ve been right for the times,” Viney said. “But nearly 20 years is a long time to be chairman and now it’s time to stand back and let the new generation take over.”
In a forthcoming issue of ATG: ‘The things I’ve learned,’ by Paul Viney.